"Let's Talk About It"
In 2018 I created this painting " Lets Talk About It." I started this painting with the mindset of calling it “Speak on It” displaying issues and demonstrations that have been held throughout history to today on the things black people face here in America. It then changed into not only those demonstrations but conversation starters that I want people, especially Black people to have within their friend groups, families, communities and with themselves. Thus now calling this piece “Let’s talk about it”.
The layout of this painting is based around the continent of Africa, I chose Africa because it itself is a conversation starter, it is where my ancestors originated from. I chose the color Gold because it represents wealth, success, wisdom, and understanding posing the question: How can Africa, a continent with potential wealth remain so poor? This lead me into many directions focusing on the war-fare being imposed of the people of melanin decent.
With the quote “ What you do for yourself depends on what you think of yourself, what you think of yourself depends on what you know about yourself, what you know about yourself depends on what you’ve been told.” highlighted in the middle it makes you stop to think how we reflect on who we are. I chose this quote for this painting because I was reflecting on myself and my past dedicating time to learn more about my ancestors. While watching the film “ Hidden Colors” directed by Tariq Nasheed I heard this quote and it really stuck with me. I believe that we should all do our own research on our history because no one is teaching it to us.
There are 16 pieces behind Africa and each triangle is an event, discussion or issue that I believe needs to be discussed.
I painted Colin Kapernick, a former football player for the San Francisco 49ers. His refusal to stand and take a knee for the national anthem during the games has been a controversial topic for the past few years. His mission for kneeling was to use his platform as a professional football player to raise awareness and protest the wrongdoings against African Americans in the U.S. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." Kapernick using his platform, risking his career and using his voice is the example we need each day to remind ourselves that we must stand up for what is right even if it means sitting down.
'If you want to hide something from a negro put it in a book” this quote hit me really hard when I first heard it because as someone who loves reading, I can sometimes take it for granite. My ancestors didn't have the privilege to read a book and more often than that they were punished when learning how to read. So much of our history lies within pages of novels we need to hold ourselves accountable for taking the time to learn about ourselves and our history. Reading not only allows us to gain literacy skills but the knowledge we need to grow as a culture. Below is a list of great books that I’ve enjoyed and would encourage you to read as well.
· The Sun Does Shine- Anthony Ray Hinton
· Why are all the Black Children Sitting together in the Cafeteria- Beverly Daniel Tatum
· Aint I a Woman – Bell Hooks
· Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult
· Native Son – Richard Wright
· The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander
· The Mis- Education of the Negro – Carter G. Woodson
. Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass
. Black Pain - Terrie M. Williams
I painted Obama because I believe there is a conversation that is to be had about his presidency and what he accomplished for the Black community. Him being the first Black president gave hope to many that the racial tensions in this country had subsided that America was ready for a Black leader. I put the quote,“ A Black face in a high place does not mean they care for their race.” above him in the background I believe for many African Americans Obama has been a hero – but also a letdown.
In April 2014 the city of Flint, Michigan changed its water source and the residents were exposed to high levels of pollutants and lead. For years the city was relying on water from Lake Huron it was quality water but there was some issues with affordability. It was very expensive and the city has a very high poverty rate, the city wanted to switch to a new water department and until that was built they would temporarily be using the Flint River as its drinking water source. Because treating river water is different than treating lake water the problems were more complex. The water wasn’t treated with corrosion control to help keep the water lines from breaking down and having metals contaminate the water. There was a series of bacterial issues and a huge outbreak of Legionnaires disease, it is no 2020 and they still do not have clean water. ( painting says 2018 because thats when it was created) Flint has a majority of black poor people, the council and city made the choice to try to cover up their own mistake of not treating the water. Still to this day no efforts have been made to help fix the pipes in Flint Michigan. The novel “ The Poisoned City” by Anna Clark goes in depth with the water crisis that is still going on in Michigan.
On July 27, 1919, an African-American teenager drowned in Lake Michigan after violating the unofficial segregation of Chicago’s beaches and being stoned by a group of white youths. His death, and the police’s refusal to arrest the white man whom eyewitnesses identified as causing it, sparked a week of rioting between gangs of black and white Chicagoans, concentrated on the South Side neighborhood surrounding the stockyards. When the riots ended on August 3rd, 15 whites and 23 blacks had been killed and more than 500 people injured; an additional 1,000 black families had lost their homes when they were torched by rioters. This event sparked the “Red Summer” a culmination of growing racial tensions surrounding the rural South. Throughout this summer riots would break out in Washington D.C, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Omaha Nebraska and Chicago.
“The Black Dollar”
This section represents the need for the black community to focus on Black economics. The Black community needs to think in terms of economic development and we must begin to peruse cooperative economics in which we control our communities in order to succeed. The lifespan of a dollar in the Asian community is 28 days, in the Jewish community 19 days and in the African American community is approximately six hours. This means we need to support more Black business to grow our wealth and our own communities. That will raise the buying power and spending power that we have. Downloading apps like "Black Wall Street" shows you locations in your area that are blacked owned.
This piece calls attention to the US prison system. It should come to no surprise that African American males take up a majority of the prison population and that incarceration rates are at its highest. We have more Black men in prison today than we had enslaved in 1850. I painted this in there to increase focus on not only prison rates but our justice system and why it fails Black Americans.
I wanted to raise awareness to an organization that I learned about that promotes healthy living for Black women. Girl Trek is an non-profit organization that encourages Black women to walk together, practicing the first step to healthy living. As women organize walking teams they mobilize community members to support their cause. Inspired by Harriet Tubman’s walk to freedom and other civil rights activist GirlTrek is committed to honor the woman who came and walked before us. To join the movement check out http://www.girltrek.org/
Structural Adjustment Programs, a major cause of Africa’s Poverty. This is an immense reason why Africa is so wealthy yet still so poor. The WB and IMF work closely together setting the policy agenda and economic development to address the key problems in African countries. The main objective of SAP is to make changes to the developing countries government specifically there economics by loan programs. I added this into my painting for people to do more of their own research on Structural adjustment programs specifically in Africa.
The year 1906 at an exhibit in Louisiana stood Ota Benga a man from the Congo displayed in a human zoo exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. Benga was purchased from African Slave traders and was mistreated for a majority of his life. In late 1906 the mayor released Benga from the Zoo after being urged by many African American newspapers and a spokesman of the black church Robert Stuart Mac Arthur. The mistreatment of Ota Benga is a reflection of the racial ideologies that were enforced then and even still today, portraying Blacks as animalistic and deemed to be in cages.
"Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”
This section is for those who have been victims of police brutality, honoring their names, constantly saying them and marking them down in history so they are not forgotten. Black Lives matter is another topic that has been at debate for the past couple of years, a member lead organization whose mission is to bring awareness to the violence inflicted on Black communities Black Lives Matter has been a hashtag to enforce the support for Black liberation. Enraged by the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman this emerged the Black Lives Matter Movement.
When I was in the 8th grade my class took a trip down south, they called it “ The Civil Rights Trip” exploring the time period of racial segregation of the south, we looked at places like the Martin Luther King Museum, 16th Street Baptist Church, The Rosa Parks Museum, Birmingham Civil Rights National Monuments, The Lorraine Motel, The Civil Rights Memorial as well as hearing from people who were involved in the movement themselves. This trip is something that I hold close to my heart because I got to experience something that many black kids don’t get to experience at such a young age. During our trip we heard accounts from a woman named Joanne Bland who was a young girl at the time of the civil rights era. She told us a story about her account of Bloody Sunday that still stays with me today, this is why I chose to incorporate it in my painting. Racial tensions emerged and effervesced into bloodshed February of 1965 when state troopers killed Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26 year old who during a demonstration was trying to protect his mother who was being struck by police. In response civil rights leaders planned to take their cause straight to the source of Governor George Wallace this began a 54 mile march from Selma to the capital of Montgomery. On the other side waiting for the 600 protestors was a line of troopers wearing helmets and holding Billy clubs in their hands, ordering the marchers to go back home and turn around. When the protesters refused the officers shot tear gas into the crowd while beating the non-violent protestors with their Billy clubs.
I painted a silhouette of a black man against the contrast of the white canvas to represent Black Man in white space, almost every Black person in America has experienced the sting of being Black surrounded around those that are not, having the pressure of the appearance that you represent the entire Black community.
“Build Our way Up”
This building depicts how we as a Black community need to start from the bottom up and control first our businesses, keep the money floating in the community so that they can expand, then representation in our politics so that laws are being fashioned for minorities branching into police and law enforcement so that the black community isn’t being victims of over policing, and finally the media. Media influences a majority of the population it is important to be able to control the image of ourselves as Black people on the screen, They can’t control what you think but they can control what you’re talking about. No more archetypes that display Black women as angry and bitter and Black men as trophies and “buddy” figures. Black people own less than 1% of the press and media.
I work with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, I work in communities where they need us most, many of the families are in low income based housing and the children are susceptible to see things that many of us can’t imagine. Some days are challenging but our mission is to best serve these kids. My boss told me one day “We are planting seeds” and this has been in the back of my mind throughout this painting. What we are doing now we may not see drastic progress, but we are planting the seeds so that others will see their growth down the line. I encourage you to volunteer in your community, become a big brother or big sister, or read at a local school go out and plant a seed in the younger generation.
This piece is a 24x30 acrylic painting touching on Black identity, Black issues and Black progression. I hope this will create conversations and reflection and spark the sense of urgency to to dig deeper and do your own research into these topics and many more not showcased. I want to encourage people to read and start a book club in their friend circle, watch a documentary or TedTalk about these topics and develop solutions, find or become a mentor, start these conversations and keep talking.
*This Piece has been Sold